A Very Informative Week

Including being not-so-subtly reminded of the taste of dirt. Thanks, Harley, how could I forget!

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Outdoor footing…not so soft.

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I got ballsy last Tuesday night and planned a ride with a friend of mine in the outdoor arena since the indoor is booked up with lessons every Tuesday. No problem, I thought, we’ll have a blast out there and I’ll even bring my bluetooth speaker so we can play music while we ride! Everything was going well, Harley was looking super fly in a new saddle pad (I have a serious addiction) and we were jamming to the soothing sounds of the “warm-up” portion of the riding playlist I made. I made this playlist a while ago originally to do some trot sets with Tyco and originally for ME to listen to while riding via earphones. After the roughly 12 minutes of slower, softer warm-up tunes the playlist shifts to a faster beat “on” song, followed by a slower beat “off” song. I failed to take into account multiple factors, including, but not limited to: it was only Harley’s second time in the outdoor arena; there were multiple horses turned out in a field that shares the arena fence; the barn owner was doing some work with the tractor; it was very windy; and Harley is fairly reactive to sounds. We turned onto the short side at the trot just as the tractor mower hit a pile of sticks and the first “on” song kicked on MUCH louder than I imagined and Harley scooted and took off. I attempted a half-assed pulley rein to no avail. I thought briefly about burying him into the arena fence or corner but wasn’t sure I had enough (any?) steering and worried that he might try to jump it. So I hung on as long as I could hoping he would just stop but after a handful of hairpin turns at high speed I lost my stupid right stirrup and knew that I was about to be intimately acquainted with the ground.

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I fell mostly on my well-padded butt except I nailed my right calf on something on the way down because I thought I pulled a muscle in there the bruising was so bad. My friend didn’t see the trigger moment but dismounted and watched the aftermath and then kindly collected my mount for me as I picked the gravel out of my teeth. I was fine, but mad, mostly at myself. I should have been smarter than that and shouldn’t have been so cavalier. I hadn’t made NEARLY enough deposits in the trust bank yet to justify such a massive withdrawal. I turned the music off and got back on and tried to settle Harley down putting him to work at the walk and trot. He was still quite keyed up as the tractor was still going and now the peanut gallery in the adjacent field was like “holy cow!!! much excitement!!!”. A week later I am still very bruised but I have had a handful of only positive rides on Harley since and we are back on track- lessons learned!

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Oh yes, that IS plaid trim on that saddle pad! ❤

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It was an equestrian social weekend for me including attending a dressage clinic, riding in wicked hot weather, attending my instructor’s baby shower, and capping off with a very nice lesson last night.

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I’ll have to write about the clinic in my next post because I took some notes and want to write them here as well in hopes that the more I revisit them, the more they will sink in!

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It was a sweltering 90 degrees last night for my lesson and Harley and I are both out of shape, so it was a lot! We did some smaller traveling circles at the walk for suppling on the short side and then we moved that traveling circle idea to the whole arena on a 20m circle at the trot. The goal was to get him to step under and spiral out on the half of the circle towards the open end of the arena thereby moving your circle. I was going to draw it for you but it was really hard to draw…but basically this:

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It took us waaaay too many circles to get across the arena tracking right because Harley was blowing through my leg aids to move over and I was letting him get away with it. We got some decent steps on our last circle, though. On the left, the exercise was much easier (I think for both of us). We schooled some leg yields from the quarter line to the wall and these went much better than they had during our first lesson but I think Harley was just more on my aids this time around. We progressed to a short leg yield to the wall, canter transition, canter circle. That exercise was helpful because it made us really organize and balance to get a nice transition.We struggled on the right to get the leg yield as he seems much more reluctant to want to tuck that right hind underneath and carry the weight. Our canter departs in that direction were abysmal too, but it was the end of the lesson and we were both pretty exhausted.

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It will get better! I am very encouraged. This horse hasn’t done a lot of dressage work in his past but he’s got a great attitude for the work and really does put up with a lot of my stupidity. I told my instructor what I think will be tough is trying to stay consistent with him while he learns new stuff without second guessing my aids. The clinician this weekend gave a lesson to an adult ammie with a very talented but young horse. He cautioned that if a rider asks for something and the horse gets it wrong the tendency might be for the rider to second guess themselves and “rephrase” the question when what the horse really needs is another chance or two to get the right answer to the same question. I really took that tip to heart thinking about Harley since he may not be young, but is relatively green for dressage and adult ammies like me LOVE second guessing themselves!

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Purple Rain

 

I got these snaps all weekend from friends of mine who attended the memorial party outside First Ave, a historic Minneapolis music club where many MN musical artists got their start.

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I grew up four miles away from Paisley Park, Prince’s studio, built the year I was born. I attended preschool in the building right next door to the estate. If you grew up in Minnesota, there is a certain small connection shared with a tremendous talent that refused to move to L.A. or some big music city and instead put the ‘burbs of Minneapolis on the map. Prince was proud to be Minnesotan and his fellow statesmen are reeling after the sudden loss of their beloved creative icon.

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Paisley Park Studio on Saturday, April 23 2016 photo taken by my mom 

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Don’t worry, I have been riding my “Little Red Corvette” quite a bit lately as well. How do so many of you guys seem to have personal photographers/videographers?!  I’m just over here with my terrible quality iPhone video stills that I took of myself by propping my phone up on an arena wall…

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I have been trying hard to engage his hind legs specifically during our rides because he sometimes stumbles behind or takes an odd step. I understand that I am a heavy rider and he is an aging horse with probably his fair share of arthritis so I try not to worry about it too much and instead just focus on getting him to slow down and think about things. We’ll build up slowly. Despite the odd step or two, he’s quite a nice mover and he seems to be feeling and moving well. I have to call a farrier out just for him in the next couple of weeks. It might just be one more time before I can try to get on the barn’s rotation in case I can’t be there to hold him. His vet meet and greet went well, I showed him a small patch of scratches on Harley’s right hind but he wasn’t concerned about it at all. I did have him clean Harley’s sheath and watched aghast as my gelding stood quietly while his junk got power washed. Afterwords, the vet exclaimed “okay, Spot, you’re looking good,” and we called it a day.

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The vet was surprised at how clean and white Harley was for the appointment…it was not for lack of effort. 

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I’m starting to not worry about him constantly anymore. I know he is being well cared for at this barn and even if I can’t make it out to see him, he gets decent turnout and has a buddy. I do still worry on trips out of the country for work. May will be busy for me and then I’ll finally get a travel break in June.

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I spoke with the dressage trainer at my new barn and I will get on her schedule for lessons in two weeks. She was around during Harley’s vet check-up and was asking me all about him. She’s seen him work a little and I think seems interested in seeing what he can really do in the dressage court. I’m interested too!

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Good boys get some mango

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Last night we had our “first fight”. I came out to ride and also to help my friend take some sales video of her gelding. She spent a long time talking to the dressage trainer so I thought I’d just go ahead and get my ride in. Harley was on edge because it was windy and someone had slid one of the big arena doors closed because the new footing was flying around earlier. Harley is doing really well in the arena so far but it is a noisy arena. The structure is mostly wood and a few pigeons hang out in the rafters. There are two barn aisles that connect directly to the arena through large sliding doors so sometimes he can see and hear stuff going on in the aisles. Last night he kept spooking at the side of the arena with the closed door. The door wasn’t making much noise, really, but he kept spooking himself by kicking footing against the gate or boards. I wasn’t asking for particularly difficult work but I did want him to settle down and focus on me and he kept panic rushing through all my aids. After a couple spooks I think all the marbles were lost and I started getting frustrated at him not paying attention so I just decided to get off before I lost my cool. He wasn’t bad, my patience just wasn’t super extensive last night. I decided to cut my losses.

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Look at that trot from my ride over the weekend, though. Can’t be mad at that! Just need to package that up a little more and convert some forward to up.

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I will be in Lexington, KY this weekend, but not at Rolex… I know, I know. My cousin is getting married and then I have to leave from there to go to Peru on Sunday for work. I hope all you Rolex-bound bloggers have a wonderful weekend!! Weather doesn’t look spectacular, so be sure to bring rain gear.

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Healthy Fear?

As many of you know, I volunteer at a therapeutic riding facility and have done so (with different organizations) for upwards of twelve years now.

This organization serves many riders and is run by a network of volunteers as well as a small staff and executive board. As with any organization whose primary activities lend themselves to a younger crowd, we tend to have a lot of seasonal volunteers and volunteer turnover based on the school schedule. There are a nice crew of us who have been volunteering for a while and can be counted on year after year.

I am a stable manager at this facility on Thursday evenings, meaning that while lessons are going on it is my responsibility to ensure that: horses are correctly tacked for each lesson; horses are kept fed and watered; stalls are routinely picked; volunteers are completing the other barn chores; and to be readily available should an instructor or volunteer need anything. As the temps drop, so does our attendance, and because I am experienced with horses and with this program, I am often chosen to lead difficult or new horses in lessons.

Another one of my main responsibilities is to help train in new volunteers. I love this part but, sadly, when we are forced to run with a skeleton crew, this part gets neglected. Last night a typical situation arose that many of you fellow bloggers wouldn’t even bat an eye at, but that surely scared the bejeezus out of a number of wide-eyed greenhorns.

Lessons run back-to-back and so the grooming/tacking must be carefully orchestrated or we will make all of the lessons run behind. I’m unsure if my other stable manager had to leave for some sort of emergency, but for whatever reason, I ended up in the arena leading our easiest horse for a lesson. This happens a lot, and generally the rest of the work gets done like clockwork thanks to a pretty good group of workmanlike volunteers. Last night, some of the volunteers were tacking a horse named Splash (she’s been featured on this blog before) and she is well known for being a tough horse to lead. She has become a little dangerous on the ground if you don’t know what you are doing. She bites, and sometimes has mareish moods. We tack all of the therapy horses in their stalls clipped to a safety tie on the bars between their stalls. As I watched from the arena last night, Splash was being tacked and for whatever reason (like they need a reason, amirite?) she spooked and pulled back once, sound reverberating off of the bars. After she settled, I tried to telepathically yell “unclip her!” from my useless spot in the arena dragging around the ironically named “Spirit”. But alas, they didn’t hear me and didn’t come to the same conclusion- I understand, she bites, I’d rather her be tied too! Well, she spooked herself again in dramatic fashion and broke her halter trying to scuttle back from the resistance.

No humans or horses were injured in this production and the only loss was a leather halter and probably temporary bladder function of some volunteers.

I had mixed emotions over the whole thing. Half of me was mad that somehow I let myself get roped into leading, since a monkey could do it with this horse, meanwhile the presence of a senior stable manager was obviously needed in the aisle. And then the other half of me wishes I could bottle that experience and give it to all new volunteers.

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I’m not 100% saying that had I been tacking Splash it wouldn’t have happened in the first place…but yes, yes I am.

Emma said it pretty well today in her post:

“When dealing with horses, it’s sometimes a stretch to say we’re in control of the situation… but there are definitely steps we can take to keep things safe for everyone involved.”

Sometimes I feel like I am conducting basic horse care and groundwork lessons every week. I can’t quite think back far enough to remember how it was first impressed upon me that you simply MUST possess a healthy fear when you are working with horses. I feel like I always had that. I mean you just look at them- they’re huge and they don’t seem to know it- they are startled but what sometimes seems like the dumbest stuff, at the very least you could say they act completely unpredictably if you know nothing about horses.

 

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Still, for some reason, we get teenagers in the barn alllllll the time that are in a big giant hurry to lead the most difficult horses in the barn because they’re VERY experienced, ya know, they’ve watched every episode of Heartland and rode horses at summer camp. I don’t mean to belittle that experience because that was more or less my entry into horses too- you have to start somewhere. But I had a healthy fear. I didn’t try to overstate my experience, I just wanted to be given the opportunity for more of it.

I don’t want to be complacent when teaching new volunteers about horses. Yes, they are therapy horses but they are still horses.

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How do you prep overconfident newbies for those dramatic horse situations? Any advice?

 

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Emergency Brakes: Not Found

I knew I was out-kicking my coverage…

I won’t pussyfoot around- I fell off the little red mare during my lesson last week.

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Here’s how it all went down:

After a pretty lackluster lesson last Sunday with Louie, I pretty much knew my trainer was going to have me ride the red mare during my lesson. My hunch was confirmed when I arrived to the barn and Louie’s owner was halfway tacked to take him out on a hack. The barn was busy and the lesson before mine was already running late. I grabbed the mare-rrari and started to prep. In the short span of getting tacked for my lesson, the vet arrived to look at a couple of the horses and the ladies who ride after me (they trailer in) arrived early in order to get one of their horses looked at by the vet as well.

I don’t know if this was a time-saving maneuver or what but my trainer told me to come on into the arena as soon as I was ready and join the lesson that was going on. The mare-rrari is best buddies with the mare who gets ridden in the lesson before mine so my trainer thought it would be a good fit just to join in.

The mare-rrari was a little keyed-up with everything that was going on but I wasn’t too concerned. I mounted and began a relaxing warm-up around the arena. My goal was to just stay out of the way of the on-going lesson because they were working on canter departs. The arena is pretty small and there were jumps scattered around so it made it a bit interesting to try and stay out of the way. My trainer was verbally encouraging the other mare to pick up her canter promptly and the mare-rrari tried to trot at the sound. I settled her back into a walk and we continued around. I crossed the arena diagonally and threaded a couple of the jumps, meanwhile my trainer asked the other rider for another upward transition. The mare–rrari broke into a trot, I started to post, and then she just BOLTED. She was scooting underneath me in a panicked gallop around the arena. I tried to sit up and relax hoping she would find her brain again and come back to me. We darted a lap, taking each turn at breakneck speeds. We took the turns so tight at the rails that the thought crossed my mind “this mare wouldn’t think about trying to jump these fences, would she?!” she didn’t, but after six tight right-hand turns, the saddle finally slipped around her side and off I went. I landed on my left hip/butt and then left shoulder and face.

I was able to hop up right away and nothing was seriously injured. The poor little red mare was still galloping around the arena with a dressage saddle hanging underneath her. After making sure I wasn’t injured, my trainer caught her and removed the saddle. I grabbed the mare who was still wild-eyed and blowing and just talked to her, stroking her shoulder to remind her she was okay.

We were all baffled over what had occurred. Thankfully, the other mare behaved like a champ and only spooked once when the little red mare first started bolting. My trainer asked me again if I was ok. Once she was convinced that I was in one piece, she re-saddled the mare-rrari and started to lunge her letting the stirrups hang loose on the saddle to remind the mare that those noises and bumps on her sides won’t hurt her. After she started to calm down on the lunge, my trainer got on and rode her. She makes it look so easy. After a couple laps she told me she thought it may have been the “clucking” to the other horse that set her off because as she was riding around, the mare was still getting startled by a small noise her boots were making on the saddle.

Whatever it was, it sucked- like falling off a horse always does. Painful; publicly humiliating; loads of unwanted attention; unanswered questions; etc. I was glad I was able to stay on until I lost the saddle; I’m glad the mare is short; I’m glad we were in an arena with soft sand; I’m glad I always wear a well-fitting helmet; and I’m very glad I wasn’t hurt.

I’m not the type to be hesitant to ride again after a non-injury causing fall. I can write-off what happened to the circumstances of that moment and move on. Now, that’s not to say that I’m not hard on myself about it. I spent the whole hour and a half drive home stewing and fretting that I could have done something differently or that I had now ruined the red mare and/or any chance of me getting to ride her ever again. I will say that, in hindsight, the conditions were not ideal for me to ride the mare-rrari last wednesday. The barn was too busy, the schedule too rushed and crowded, and best believe I won’t use that particular worn-out schooling girth ever again.

I ate my big serving of humble pie and luckily, I am no worse for wear. Sorry, mom, if you’re reading this- I didn’t tell you before because, well, you know. I am fine, not even sore anymore.

In other news, I rode Sunny last night and he was well-behaved but still slightly off.

Hopefully this week includes less sand up my nose.

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Sunday Funday

I grow weary of the Sunny situation…which culminated in me neglecting him a bit last week. To beat the blues, I headed out to the barn on Sunday afternoon determined just to have some fun and enjoy my visit rather than leaving puzzled or frustrated. I was the only one in the barn so I popped in a bunch of my CDs and jammed out to my music over the speakers during my whole pony playdate. I lunged Sunny and he was still looking sore but not terrible. Then, for some reason, maybe I was lulled into fantasy land by the music, I snapped his reins on to his halter and hopped up bareback. We toodled around the indoor and then since I wanted to even out my farmers tan he was so relaxed and behaving himself, I rode him outside to the outdoor arena. The whole experience was super enjoyable except for a brief moment of heart-racing when one of the therapy horses and the two mini horses were turned out in a different pasture from their norm. This pasture is directly across from the outdoor and as soon as they saw Sunny and I walking to the outdoor they came jogging over to say hi. Turns out Sunny is afraid of the minis so his head whips around and he gets a panicky look on his face and I’m thinking this is going to be a tough one to explain if he dumps me and gets loose. He spooked sideways once, but luckily it wasn’t a big one and didn’t unseat me though it did drop my heart into my stomach. We took a few laps in the sunshine and walked over a few poles just for kicks. We pranced nervously by the minis again and returned to the indoor.

death-wish...I has it.

death-wish…I have it.

 

I may have taken selfies bareback on a horse known most recently for bucking repeatedly under saddle but…YOLO…or something.

 

Wearing my helmet, of course!...not a complete idiot.

Wearing my helmet, of course!…not a complete idiot*. 

*debatable

 

Once we were back inside I removed the reins and let him loose in the arena where he had a luxurious roll.

 

whatcha doin over there?

whatcha doin over there?

 

I better come see.

I better come see.

 

The music played, the fun was had,  and no humans or animals were harmed in the making of this blog post.

 

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